bq command-line tool reference

This document describes the syntax, commands, flags, and arguments for bq, the BigQuery command-line tool. It is intended for users who are familiar with BigQuery, but want to know how to use a particular bq command-line tool command. For general information about how to use the bq command-line tool, see Using the bq command-line tool.


The bq command-line tool uses the following format:


Some flags can be used with multiple bq command-line tool commands; these flags are described in the Global flags section.

Other flags are command-specific; they can only be used with a particular bq command-line tool command. The command-specific flags are described in the command sections.

Boolean flags

Some bq command-line tool flags are boolean; you can set the flag's value to either true or false. The bq command-line tool accepts the following formats for setting boolean flags.

Value Format Example
true --FLAGNAME=true --debug_mode=true
true --FLAGNAME --debug_mode
false --FLAGNAME=false --debug_mode=false
false --noFLAGNAME --nodebug_mode

This document uses the --FLAGNAME=VALUE format for boolean flags.

All boolean flags are optional; if a boolean flag is not present, then BigQuery uses the flag's default value.

Specifying values for flags

When you specify a value for a flag, the equals sign (=) is optional. For example, the following two commands are equivalent:

bq ls --format prettyjson myDataset
bq ls --format=prettyjson myDataset

This document uses the equals sign for clarity.

Online help

Documentation is available in the bq command-line tool, as follows:

Description Help command format Example
List of all commands with examples bq help bq help
Description of global flags bq --help bq --help
Description of a particular command bq help COMMAND bq help mk

Resource specification

The format for specifying a resource depends on the context; in some cases the separator between the project and dataset is a colon (:) and in some cases, it is a period (.). The following table describes how to specify a BigQuery table in different contexts.

Context Format Example
bq command-line tool PROJECT:DATASET.TABLE myProject:myDataset.myTable
GoogleSQL query PROJECT.DATASET.TABLE myProject.myDataset.myTable
Legacy SQL query PROJECT:DATASET.TABLE myProject:myDataset.myTable

If you don't specify a project, then BigQuery uses the current project. For example, if the current project is myProject, then BigQuery interprets myDataset.myTable as myProject:myDataset.myTable (or myProject.myDataset.myTable).

Some resource identifiers must be quoted using back ticks (`). If your resource identifier begins with a letter or underscore character, and contains only characters that are letters, numbers, and underscores, then you don't need to quote it. However, if your resource identifier contains other types of characters, or reserved keywords, you need to surround the identifier (or the part of the identifier with the special characters or reserved keywords) with back ticks. For more information, see Identifiers.

Global flags

You can use the following flags with any bq command, where applicable:

Specifies the API endpoint to call. The default value is
Specifies the API version to use. The default is v2.

Logs all API requests and responses to the file specified by FILE. Possible values are the following:

  • the path to a file - logs to the specified file
  • stdout - logs to standard output
  • stderr - logs to standard error
  • false - API requests and responses are not logged (default)

Specifies the path to the bq command-line tool configuration file. If you don't specify the --bigqueryrc flag, then the command uses the BIGQUERYRC environment variable. If the environment variable is not set, then $HOME/.bigqueryrc is used. If that file does not exist, then ~/.bigqueryrc is used. For more information, see